Analyzing the Criticized: Sakura Haruno (Naruto) Part 2 – Chapters 101-200: Deeper Problems Starting to Bloom

See Part One Here

Chapters 101-120 (Chunin Exam Finals and the Start of the Attack of Konoha)

Sakura Analysis Part 2 1

Sakura’s not very active during this period because so much of it is the Chunin exam finals, and Sakura’s role is to merely observe (And wait for Sasuke to arrive for ten of these chapters…Just to get this off my chest – I fully agree with Shikamaru. Sasuke and Kakashi’s big overly dramatic arrival is a little irritating when they had everyone waiting. I kinda wanted them to follow that up with “Oh sorry, Sasuke, you got disqualified for making us wait about an hour. Nice pizzazz, though.”)

However, there are some points of note.

Sakura again feels a pang of jealousy when Naruto shows how powerful he is and how much he’s grown when he defeats Neji.

I especially like her saying that watching him makes her want to work even harder. She’s not only showing that she has definitely come to respect Naruto, but he is also actively inspiring her. It’s a nice circle too, considering Naruto got as far as he did in his fight with Neji by remembering the people who have inspired him, like Hinata and Rock Lee, who were inspired by him as well.

….However, as you’ll note, not a damn person was inspired by Sakura’s fight. *cough*

The second annual Naruto character popularity poll is listed in these chapters, and I didn’t think to note the first one back then because I didn’t find it relevant, but considering the topic at hand and the fact that I don’t have much to write about yet, I feel I should point this one out.

In the first popularity poll, Sakura ranked fifth.

In the second popularity poll…….she ranked 14th…..

Ouch is an understatement. Allow me to point out some notable characters who beat her as further evidence of the disdain towards Sakura starting to show up. Gamabunta, the frog who appeared in all of one chapter so far – Jiraiya who, at this point really hasn’t done much but train Naruto for a while and perv on girls – Hayate Gekko, the drowsy-looking proctor of the prelims who didn’t do much else but get murdered – and the fifth Hokage who has barely shown his non-mountain face in this manga at all and has yet to get a speaking role.

She’s not even the highest ranking kunoichi – Hinata takes that spot at #6.

Granted, she never falls this far again, but she never meets or surpasses her first ranking in the future. In fact, she struggles to stay in the top ten. The last popularity poll, taken in 2011, leaves her at 12th place.

Since we’re still not getting much in the realm of Sakura right now, let me babble for a while. The endless Sasuke praise and adoration is irritating enough, especially considering he is literally being given preferential treatment because he’s the special Uchiha kid everyone wants to see fight so no disqualification for him being late, but then he has to come in being a literal copy of Rock Lee.

I get it, Sharingan user means he can copy whatever he’s seen, but this specific instance really bugs me. Rock Lee worked his ass off day in and day out for a few years to get to the levels of speed and taijutsu skill at which he has peaked to this point. Sasuke trains all of a month and he’s matched Lee’s physical abilities – his top speed, his hand-to-hand combat, his jutsus – all of it.

Sure, he can’t open the chakra gates (or maybe he can, he did see that happen too) and these abilities still take their toll, but it breaks my heart to see Rock Lee hobbling around on crutches after a near-death experience against Gaara using everything he had as he watches Sasuke implement his own moves against Gaara and drive him into a state of desperation he couldn’t get him into even by sacrificing his body to achieve that goal. And Sasuke’s barely even tired or injured at this point.

Do you see what I mean when I say I hate ‘geniuses’ and ‘prodigies’?

I’m not saying the Sharingan is cheating – as ninja, which are basically soldiers, they’re perfectly allowed to use whatever powers and bloodline abilities they have to come out on top, even if they’re overpowered or cheap. I take this more as being a massive shortcut. It’s things like this that make feats of certain characters seem less impressive to me.

People can look at this and go ‘Wow, Sasuke’s such an impressive badass.’ but I feel underwhelmed.

Rock Lee is so impressive because he reached this insane level of skill and power at his age with a handicap, not with any born advantages like many ninja have. His main powers are determination and self-discipline. On sheer willpower, he managed to match top dog ninjas time and again, even if the series commonly doesn’t let him have the limelight. Neji’s natural genius, bloodline powers and talent were a perfect foil for him. Neji may be cool, but he’ll never be as cool as Rock Lee to me, nor will Sasuke.

And hey, just to loop around back to Sakura, that IS a point on her side of the scoreboard. Even Ino and Hinata have bloodline traits that give them an edge, but Sakura doesn’t. We don’t know much about her home life besides barely seeing her parents once and that was anime-exclusive. She doesn’t come from some special clan, she has no kekki genkai, she has no curse mark or demons inside of her – she’s just Sakura.

However, the reason that she’s nowhere near as impressive as Rock Lee is because her work ethic up until this point seems mostly relegated to the basics – book learnin’ and basic skills. Like many have pointed out, she has spent a majority of her time being preoccupied with flirting and impressing Sasuke. She gets really good grades, but she doesn’t go beyond that. She’s one of the top kunouchi in her class, but she doesn’t strive to learn any powerful jutsu or focus on a particular area of strength.

I don’t want to chalk that up to laziness, because she doesn’t seem like she’s lazy. I want to say she’s lost.

She doesn’t have an identity as a ninja yet. Even in regards to the writing, she’s in a very confusing state. She’s super smart, but not as smart as Sasuke, Neji or Shikamaru. She’s skilled with chakra control, but they don’t do anything with that. She’s supposedly good with Genjutsu, but we already know how contradictory that statement has been. She’s one of the top kunoichi in her class, but in battle she ties with Ino, who is supposedly in the middle or back of the pack.

I think one of the reasons she was jealous of Naruto wasn’t just realizing yet again that he’s on a completely different level than her – it was knowing Naruto knew exactly who he was and wanted to be as a ninja. As the character descriptions state time and again in each volume, Sakura’s main goal is to ‘win Sasuke’s heart.’ Meanwhile Naruto’s is to become hokage and Sasuke’s is to get vengeance for his clan. One of these things is not like the others.

Sakura has finally realized how far she truly falls short as a ninja, but she has no direction on what she wants to be as a ninja or, realistically, a person. Winning the heart of an edgelord is not a goal of a ninja nor is it really a viable goal as a person as we’ll delve into soon enough. And it’s not until Tsunade starts training her that she actually has direction, purpose and a goal as a ninja…….even if that goal is heavily centered around Sasuke, but, again, we’ll get to that later.

That’s likely one of the reasons why Sakura is seen as so much better once the time skip rolls around. She’s not only more skilled, serious and powerful with her own fairly unique set of skills (being fair, all of the main characters adopted and adapted most of their techniques from their elders), but she also has direction.

Once the attack is launched on the Chunin exam and most people fall under the Genjutsu, one of the enemies points out that realizing the Genjutsu and being able to use a jutsu to release it is to be expected of Konoha’s elite. Immediately after he says this, we see Sakura releasing the Genjutsu on herself as well.

FINALLY an actual implication that she’s good at catching Genjutsu and can easily escape it. Too bad there’s so much more evidence to the contrary that this actually seems weird. I almost feel like she was just taking a beat from Kakashi and Gai, seeing them do it before her.

While worrying about Sasuke, given the attack from Orochimaru, Sakura gets attacked by two enemy ninja. Kakashi rushes in to save her…..This attack has absolutely no point besides to show Sakura getting saved again.

Kakashi points out that she has a natural talent for Genjutsu again, which is par for the course at this point, roll your eyes and move on, but he also said something that made me raise an eyebrow. He said he’s glad he trained her in Genjutsu during ninja survival training….Uhm….when did this happen?…And why are you lying?

Kakashi never gave Sakura any specific training, and any training she did with Naruto and Sasuke never involved Genjutsu, that we saw anyway. The only instance I can think of was the bell test where Kakashi placed a Genjutsu on her to make her think Sasuke was mortally wounded – and that made her faint!

Sakura is recruited to break the Genjutsu on Naruto and Shikamaru to take on an A-rank mission. She’s very clearly nervous and apprehensive, but, to her credit, she doesn’t panic. Shikamaru recognized and broke free from the Genjutsu (he pretended to be asleep) so she doesn’t get to break him free.

Chapter 118 does not put any good light on Sakura at all.

There’s a fairly decent opportunity for Sakura’s character growth here. One of the aforementioned overlooked aspects of her character is in the fact that she’s supposedly very smart. Since she was shown to be quite nervous a moment ago, Kakashi might have relied on Sakura’s knowledge to help command a squad to carry out his mission. Sakura could bungle it up a bit at first, her fear getting in the way, especially since Kakashi brought up the Hidden Mist mission, of which Sakura holds bad memories, but ultimately she could come through and manage to effectively lead the squad for at least a while.

This would also give her a better moment of glory than whatever the hell happened in the Chunin exam prelims.

However, Kakashi ordered her to recruit Shikamaru, who was recently proven to be a tactical genius with an IQ over 200. And since he was also touted to be the one who would be most fitting as a Chunin out of that year’s group, it’s a no-brainer that he’d basically be leader and brains of their temporary squad.

But he went a bit overboard.

He made Sakura look about as stupid as Naruto with her suggestions, and even described her as ‘A kunoichi with no particular talent.’ I’ve stated that it’s a bit annoying when they press Sakura’s ‘she’s really smart’ button when trying to give her props when she’s in a team with Sasuke the genius, but this moment made me really glad they didn’t opt to put her in a team with Shikamaru – especially considering his outward sexism.

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Secondly, Sakura immediately believes Shikamaru probably ran away when he goes off to basically sacrifice himself to be a decoy to the nine pursuing ninja. Not only is that insulting and a poor testament to Sakura’s faith in her comrade, but that doesn’t even make any sense. If Shikamaru wanted to save his ass and run, he’d just do it. He wouldn’t come up with an elaborate plan, pretend to be the décoy in said plan and then run off.

Chapters 121-140 (Conclusion of the attack on Konoha + Battle against Gaara)

Sakura’s not present in half of these chapters because there’s other stuff going on that has nothing to do with her, namely the Third Hokage’s battle against Orochimaru, Shino’s battle against Kankuro and Sasuke’s battle against Gaara.

However, I will note something. When Naruto finally arrives on the scene, he makes a dramatic entrance by kicking Gaara in the face (Does that mean now Naruto’s too fast for Gaara’s protective sand? Come on.) as he’s about to attack Sasuke.

Sakura’s entrance is rushing to Sasuke’s side and fretting over him. Granted, he is out of chakra and the curse mark is taking over again, but still. Contrast.

Also, there’s a weird spot, shown above, where Sakura seems like she’s not even paying attention to what’s going on around her, gets pissed off when Naruto tries to ask her about their enemy, literally goes ‘grrr’ when she looks at Gaara and explains…. “That’s the guy who knocked Sasuke down.” I don’t know if the translation is just weirdly worded, but that sounds like a little kid getting angry at a bully.

And let me remind everyone, Sasuke chased after Gaara so they could have this fight, yet Sakura’s acting like Gaara sought him out.

To her credit, Sakura does jump in the way of Gaara as he tries to attack Sasuke (Though her stance is kinda weird if you ask me. Really limits your attacks if you hold your kunai down that low, doesn’t it?)

But, of course, she can’t do a damn thing and just gets slammed against the tree. Her willing to put her life at risk to protect someone precious to her creates an additional instance of emotional turmoil for Gaara, for what that’s worth.

Sakura spends a good chunk of the rest of this section being pinned to a tree and being a damsel in distress. Gaara has separated some of his sand from his body to keep her pinned to the tree and it’s slowly constricting her. Unless Naruto beats Gaara, she’ll be crushed to death.

So glad she was able to break free from that Genjutsu just so she could do literally nothing useful and become a damsel in distress. Bravo.

I love how when Naruto’s thinking about examples of people acknowledging him, Sakura’s segment is asking him about Sasuke and him desperately trying to get her to pay attention to him….

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Hey, now. Sasuke showing concern for Sakura. Sasuke tells Naruto to save Sakura no matter what and to run away with her while he makes a distraction. He also includes her as one of his ‘precious comrades.’

Tell you the truth, though, all of the dialogue in play, this is just as much a NaruSasu moment as it is a SasuSaku moment.

Gamakichi refers to Sakura as Naruto’s girl….That probably irritated me more than it should.

Some people like to also give flak to Gaara for becoming Kazekage later and being a good friend to Konoha and Naruto when he’s basically a reformed serial killer. Many people don’t give him too much leeway just because of his sordid past (“Cool motive, still murder.”), but considering he also suffered from endless insomnia possibly since birth and had his sanity chewed on by a demon whenever he did get some semblance of rest, it makes more sense to pardon his actions and believe his development when he gets a better grasp on Shukaku and comes to change his views on love and affection. His sanity is slowly repairing itself, somewhat symbolically, through the love he witnesses and eventually obtains from his friends and family.

I’ll probably bring this back up way later down the line when we get to some more questionable reformations, but since we’re focusing on Gaara right now, I thought that’d be the best time to discuss that…..Sakura’s still stuck to a tree afterall.

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Sakura got unstuck from the tree. Caught by Sasuke, showing a tiny bit more caring for her.

Chapters 141 – 160 (The Aftermath of the Attack on Konoha + Finding Tsunade)

In a flashback, Sakura initially doesn’t believe that Naruto was responsible for defeating Gaara, saving her from the Sand Gauntlet. She’d rather gush over Sasuke and believe he was responsible and that he’s just being modest. Sasuke, however, does convince her, and even though she’s not seen thanking Naruto, she does smile and seemingly respect what he did.

Sakura’s only other appearance in this section is briefly being seen sitting at Sasuke’s hospital bed side saying “Sasuke….”

Yup, 20 chapters and those are Sakura’s only appearances. Granted, the story as of now doesn’t really call for her – Naruto’s been away for most of it, but still. If you were just casually reading this, you’d be seriously questioning whether Sakura’s actually a main character or not.

Chapters 161 – 180 (Tsunade’s Decision + The Battle Between the Sannin + Coming Home with the Fifth Hokage)

Sakura’s still not in a good portion of this part, but….Alright, since I didn’t really have much else to say, I wanted to make an observation. I am in no way slamming Tsunade, but I couldn’t help but make this parallel. Even though Tsunade was holding her own, she was still very evenly matched and nearly losing to Kabuto, whom Orochimaru stated earlier was only on level ground with Kakashi. No sleight to Kakashi either, but he’s not a Sannin. I’m just saying……is Tsunade basically the Sakura of her team?

I’m not saying the skill and power difference is as great as Sakura’s with Sasuke and Naruto, but she really doesn’t seem to be on the same level as Orochimaru or Jiraiya. During this battle she needed to be saved twice. And the first time she was facing Kabuto only.

So the first instance we see of Sakura in this chunk of the story is a brief image of her and Ino looking all crazy as Shikamaru goes off bad-mouthing all woman-kind.

And the first shot we actually see of her…..is…..At Sasuke’s bedside….And Tsunade notes that she seems to have been going there every single day. Wow.

Look, I get that this is kinda sweet, but from all I can tell she has literally done nothing with the time Naruto has been gone, which is a couple weeks I think, besides sit on her ass and mope about Sasuke. While Naruto was off working his ass off to learn the most powerful move he’s ever mastered, one that will become his signature attack technique throughout his lifetime, she’s been doing nothing. Even Rock Lee was training while actually being a PATIENT in this hospital after getting his body viciously mangled, but Sakura’s just been sitting there like a lump on a log….

What happened to the Sakura who was sick of people getting hurt protecting her and being gung-ho about proving herself? You don’t only do that in the field, Sakura. You have to actually be active when you don’t have missions. You have to learn new jutsu or make up your own. Kakashi might be out of commission for the moment, but surely there are other instructors who can take over for a while, if she absolutely needs someone to help her, even if there is a shortage of people in the village lately.

However, we clearly see most of the other teams are training in their off-time, whether it be as a hobby or not, even without an instructor nearby. Sakura has no excuse to be doing nothing.

And for the record, Sakura spends the rest of the first chapter she’s really been seen in for ages crying and hugging Sasuke…..

Meanwhile, in the next chapter, Sakura is peeling an apple for Sasuke and cutting it up into itty bitty pieces for him to eat more easily…..Sakura, sweetie, he’s just tired – he’s not a three year old.

Wow, I missed this the first time around. You’re internally cheering that you peeled…an…apple. Sakura, I know people like to joke that you’re useless, but when you’re starting to pat yourself on the back for successfully peeling fruit, I think it’s time to take a good hard look at yourself.

When Sakura presents the apples to him, he’s gotten himself so pissed off thinking of how Naruto is pulling ahead of him in skill and power that he growls at her and smacks the plate out of her hands. Then he just glowers out the window without a single thought of remorse or apology.

The girls really aren’t getting a lot of love in these few chapters anyway. Tenten’s just there, Hinata is shown being jealous that Kiba and Shino have hobbies and Ino keeps ragging on Choji for eating too much and being fat. She states that she would never get Sasuke if she ever put on weight, and tells Choji to stop eating too much or else he’ll never a girl. What a bitch.

I find this dialogue to be really weird too, because she should know very well that a large portion of Choji’s skill as a ninja comes from his weight.

The apple thing gets even worse when, gasp, Sasuke steps on one of the apple pieces on the floor. Dammit, Sasuke, you might as well be stepping on her heart!

During the match between Naruto and Sasuke, all she does is stand there looking on with concern and nearly kills herself trying to stop them from fighting (Can’t help but wonder how the series would have gone had they killed her. Not as a jab at Sakura, but something like their rivalry killing their teammate and friend would have seriously messed Naruto and Sasuke up for life.)

And once Kakashi stops them and saves Sakura, she just cries….And then Kakashi tries to cheer her up instead of talking to her like an adult….Seriously, “Don’t worry, things will be the way they used to be.”? You don’t know that. Don’t promise that, especially with Sasuke clearly going off the deep end. He did something similar when they returned for the Chunin exams when he told her the curse mark was nothing to worry about when it clearly is.

Just a moment ago, Iruka was talking to Naruto like a fellow shinobi about how he needs to help the village out and take missions whenever asked. And here Kakashi is basically ‘Santa is real’ing Sakura….

Later, Naruto tells Sakura to not get in his way. Oh goodie, even Naruto’s giving her shit now.

When Naruto, of all people, is subtly saying you just did something stupid and reckless, again, it’s probably time to take a good hard look at yourself.

Sakura does make the decision to go against Sasuke’s wishes and tell Naruto about the curse mark and Orochimaru, and he tells her it’s okay because Sasuke’s too strong to be tempted by Orochimaru. This is basically the same thing Kakashi’s doing, but at least here Naruto probably believes it himself.

Sakura’s also remembering all this while lazing about in the window. Ya know, times like these might prompt some characters to think they should’ve been stronger to stop their friends from fighting and maybe become more determined to train harder and get stronger so they won’t be ‘in the way’…….Some characters.

You might argue that there’s not enough time to give Sakura a lot of focus or develop her much right here, but Shikamaru, Choji and Rock Lee are all getting mounds of development in this section and none of the main plot involves them at all right now.

Meanwhile, Rock Lee’s story never fails to make me want to sob. Please give him all of the good things in the world forever.

Chapters 181-200 (Sasuke’s Departure – Battle Against the Sound Four for Sasuke: Choji and Neji’s battles)

 

The start of this section is one of the biggest moments for Sakura and SasuSaku in the entire series.

Sakura is keeping watch over the only path out of the village because she’s concerned Sasuke will leave, which he does. She starts off kinda funny because she tries to remind him of the time when he yelled at her for acting like Naruto had it made…..Ya know….being an orphan.

And he told her she made him sick.

She brought that up as the start of them being a team…..but it really wasn’t. The start of them being a team and opening up to each other a little was probably during the bell test.

Him yelling at her over what she said is definitely the first time he even slightly shared anything about himself to her, but he never said anything in regards to his own situation. He was just pointing out what a shitty thing it is to say that an ORPHAN has it good because their parents don’t nag them. Anyone would say that.

She goes on to talk about how fun it was being a team together, that she understands his loneliness and, even with her friends and family around her that, if Sasuke leaves, she’ll be very lonely too. This is kinda sweet, but sounds kinda shitty when it immediately follows her saying she understands Sasuke’s loneliness. Again, Sakura, no you don’t. You don’t understand loneliness. You definitely don’t understand the loneliness either Naruto or Sasuke has felt before.

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And I swear to god if someone brings up her being bullied for her forehead I will lose it.

It still doesn’t work. Sasuke affirms that they’re just all going on different paths. His is of revenge. Hers is…wherever.

Then she starts sobbing (though she’s been crying this entire time) and yells out that she’s so in love with Sasuke that she can’t stand it. She’ll do anything if he stays in Konoha. She’ll do whatever she can to make him happy – even help him exact revenge. Because swearing a blood oath over a crush…..that’s healthy.

Then….she does something I’ve always kinda hated Sakura for……she offers to go with him to Orochimaru.

……………..And then what, Sakura? And. Then. What? You’ll sit by cutting up apples for Sasuke as Voldemort trains him in the dark arts? You’ll join in? Have to hope their team has room for someone whose skills amount to high chakra control, pretend Genjutsu talent and cutting her hair.

I know it probably seems like I’m being too pissed at this, but I have justification. It’s not just that going with Sasuke to Orochimaru is dumb, it’s that she’s willing to BETRAY HER VILLAGE to stay with a guy who has only barely ever given her the time of day before because she can’t stop writing ‘Sakura Uchiha’ in her ninja textbooks.

You can shout your love for him all you want, Sakura. It’s not real. The fact that your most seemingly cherished moment with Sasuke is when he yelled at you and said you made him sick is telling enough.

The fact that you think you understand Sasuke’s feelings in the slightest, after acknowledging that you know what happened to his clan, just because you’ll be sad your eye candy won’t be around anymore is more than enough.

But the fact that you’re willing to either kiss his ass to make him stay or follow him, betraying your village as well as all of your friends and family, to someone who MURDERED THE THIRD HOKAGE and god knows how many other people – the guy who cursed Sasuke and caused him untold amounts of pain, is the frosting on the cake, the cherry on top and the little umbrella in the drink.

I can understand she has good intentions, really I do, but this confrontation paints her in such a bad and immature light. She’s twelve, so I guess I can’t hate on her too much for acting like this, even though you’d think she’d be much smarter and more mature by now, especially considering the maturity levels of a lot of her peers, but it doesn’t make it any less obnoxious.

Sasuke smirks and tells her she’ll never change, which I never really understood if that was meant to be a compliment or an insult. She threatens to scream if he leaves, which causes him to fwoosh behind her, thank her, which is kinda nice (How is Sasuke the non-annoying one in this situation?) and then knocks her out and leaves her on a bench.

The next day, Sakura tells Tsunade’s associates of what happened, which sends her into a bit of a panic because now Orochimaru has Sasuke in his clutches and can achieve his ends. Which just brings another stupid thing to light – Sakura, if you were so concerned Sasuke would leave the village soon to the point where you were seemingly pulling all-nighters watching the one path out of the village, why did you not tell Kakashi, Tsunade or any other authority figure? Why did you not have have some method of alerting them if Sasuke was attempting to leave? Maybe a clone or something or some sort of signal.

Even if she didn’t know exactly why Orochimaru wanted Sasuke, she knew he wanted him anyway. She knew the biggest enemy of Konoha at present, one who just pulled off a terrorist attack on Konoha and assassinated its leader, wanted Sasuke. Yet she didn’t think to maybe give a heads up to Kakashi? Leave a note on Tsunade’s desk?

Also, if she truly doesn’t know of Orochimaru’s intentions with Sasuke, that’s the fault of everyone continuing to treat her like a child and choosing to not share vital information like that with her. Not telling everyone, sure, but she’s his damned teammate. Naruto knows, doesn’t he? There’s no excuse.

You can argue that Sasuke would have found some way to leave no matter what they did, but if they really felt he was a danger to Konoha due to his willingness to walk into Orochimaru’s open embrace….lock the kid up. Throw his ass in prison. Use some sort of jutsu to keep him in the village. That’s kinda harsh, yeah, but it’s better than Orochimaru getting what he wants and needs to end Konoha entirely, killing untold amounts of people, and letting one of their most powerful and talented young ninja become another human dynamo with dark powers who intends on mowing down anyone in his way.

After Tsunade enlists Shikamaru to the task of retrieving Sasuke, given that all of the Chu and Jonin as well as some Genin are out on missions, and Shikamaru enlists his team of Genin, Sakura shows up and does what she does best.

Cry.

Shikamaru explains that they can’t bring Sakura along with them because she failed to persuade Sasuke to stay, and even though he doesn’t directly say it, she’d most certainly be a hindrance to them anyway given her lack of notable skills and power and her clear bias towards Sasuke, meaning she’d never be able to bring him back through force. So Sakura instead starts crying and begging Naruto to grant her ‘wish of a lifetime’ to bring Sasuke back.

Naruto obviously agrees, pointing out how much Sakura truly cares about Sasuke, which prompts Sakura to remember a time when she was talking to Naruto as a Sasuke doppleganger telling him how Naruto ruins everything, doesn’t understand her at all, if he had his way, supposedly, she’d never find love or happiness, and she can’t stand to have him anywhere near her. I’m not sure if this is her coming to the realization that that was Naruto or just that she’s reflecting on what a bitch she was then, but either way she realizes that she was wrong about Naruto and that he really does understand her and care.

Before I continue, can I point out that Konoha is very clearly hard up for help on missions, even Iruka told Naruto that he’d probably be called for missions to help out, Iruka himself has been pulled away from the academy to do missions, yet Sakura’s been in Konoha this whole time sitting on her ass and as far as I can tell no one’s asked her to do shit? Is this just convenient, like she hasn’t been picked through some random selection, or does no one….ya know….want her on the team? Or think she’d be useful? I can’t help but think the latter is very possible.

Where is Ino, by the way? I know she’d be nearly as bad as Sakura in the fogged focus area because of Sasuke, but where is she? Tenten’s nowhere to be found either, or Hinata. They explain Shino’s away on a mission with his father – where are all the girls at? Nearly all of the boys in Konoha, barring Rock Lee for obvious reasons, are going on this mission. Why isn’t at least Hinata, the one girl in all of Konoha whose heart doesn’t go pitter patter at the mere thought of Sasuke, being asked to go along? I know Shikamaru is sexist but at least explain where the girls are or why none of them were considered for this mission.

The end of the chapter has a picture of Sakura looking at the reader with a frown. Yeah, I’m not happy either, Sakura.

Sakura’s obviously not a part of a vast majority of these chapters after this point either. So….let’s continue to explore more reasons why practically every other character in this series is more interesting than Team 7 – Today’s excerpt: Neji and Choji….but mostly Choji.

I’m really enjoying that Neji has chilled out so much. He’s still a bit of a superior air around him, but it’s not nearly as bad as it used to be. Naruto and Kiba are being much more obnoxious in looking down on others, namely Choji and, for a minute, Shikamaru, in this part of the story, so it’s nice to see such a talented and skilled ninja actually be chill and helpful instead of snotty or emo.

As for Choji, his is another arc that never fails to bring a tear to my eye. Choji may be a bit on the annoying side when it comes to him outside of battles and missions, mostly because his shtick pretty much just amounts to ‘Haha, he’s fat. Haha he eats a lot.’ but when he’s set on something, he’s serious, he’s smart, he’s skilled and he’s incredibly determined to prove himself and defend his best friend, Shikamaru.

This is one of the best moments of badassery in the entire series, and it’s pulled off by the fat comic relief guy whose final form is a butterfly.

And not only that, but this plotline is actually relevant to our main topic.

Choji was ostracized from the other kids because he was overweight, yeah, but people also tend to think Choji’s stupid and useless on top of that, even though Shikamaru goes on record saying he is, by far, the strongest Genin in their group. Thanks to the support of Shikamaru, he has been able to keep his head up, continue moving forward and become a great ninja, no matter what others, including Ino and Asuma, who should know better, think of him. He’s able to take down one of the Sound Four, willfully giving his life to do so.

And, no lie, when I first saw this part of the story in the anime I legitimately thought Choji had died. And I cried. This storyline made me cry over the only person in the Chunin exams who had a more pitiful performance than Sakura – and that’s counting Tenten, because at least in the anime her fight was a little entertaining.

Especially when he reached the trees and saw the arrow carvings, knowing Shikamaru put them there, realizing Shikamaru had enough trust in Choji’s abilities to do as he claimed he would, beat the enemy and catch up.

We keep getting similar characters who are put down for being useless, talentless burdens on their teams like Choji and Rock Lee, and when it comes to their times to shine they get these grand, amazing storylines that pluck every heartstring you have. But when Sakura, a main friggin’ character with this same problem, is given a shot at proving herself she ends up with either a haircut or a double KO against people like Ino. Choji just beat one of Orochimaru’s bodyguards, who has a curse mark, who triggered his final form with this mark, and Sakura….couldn’t beat….Ino.

Also, I really like the dynamic the five of them have. I mean, yeah, Kiba and Naruto are generally being irritating brats, but they work really well together. Each has their own strengths and weaknesses that work in tandem with the others, and, given a bit more time, they’d probably be a powerhouse of a ninja squad…….still salty there’s not a single girl here, though.

Neji’s fight is not as interesting, in my opinion. It’s more tense seeing him actually struggle with someone and not constantly blather on about destiny and fate and whatnot (He does bring it up at the end, though), but I think it drags on a bit long. Just a little bit. Also, I can’t get as emotionally charged from Neji’s story when his crescendo is that so many people don’t see him as a failure, but as a genius and he can’t let those people down. They try to do the same death fakeout that Choji got, but, again, it’s not tugging my heartstrings as much.

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Overall, this cluster of chapters really doesn’t reflect well on Sakura, which is shame because the first part of this analysis series actually gave me quite a bit more respect for her and now it’s fading pretty fast. There are so many more moments where she frustrated the hell out of me and much fewer moments where she was actually redeeming herself. And, sadly, none where she was really impressive.

I’m debating how much of that is her fault because she’s simply not a part of most of the storylines that are happening in this section. She’s just not given anything to do. Chapters 1-100 focused almost exclusively on Team 7. The Hidden Mist arc, the first few sections of the Chunin exam – all of them had the team together and gave focus to them as a team, usually. But the start of this cluster is where the team starts falling apart, which I guess means Sakura just gets less focus by default.

I can easily say that a majority of that isn’t her fault, but when you think about it, it really is.

She’s shaking too? Have some dignity, Sakura.

She’s not really part of the Chunin exam arc after the prelims. That’s kinda her fault because she hasn’t been doing enough training to beat Ino, of all people.

She’s not being given special training for the main event of the Chunin exams because she’s not in them because see above.

She has little to no use in the attack on Konoha because she hasn’t bothered trying to train and improve herself during the Chunin exam off time anyway – despite her drive being to get stronger and more skilled so she won’t be useless and cause people more pain and grief.

She’s not of any use in the battle against Gaara, and is, depressingly, reduced to a literal damsel in distress.

She’s not involved in the part with retrieving Tsunade, which is the first instance where the fault was entirely out of her hands. However, the entire time this was going on, she was literally doing nothing but doting on comatose Sasuke every day instead of training. They could have easily brought her along, especially considering she’ll be Tsunade’s student later. That could have made for a great baseline of Team 7 connecting with their Sannin counterparts to seek out mentors. But nope.

When Naruto returns, she’s somehow 10x worse in the whiny useless crybaby department to the point where even Kakashi seemingly babies her now. She cuts up an apple for Sasuke like he’s a preschooler and does nothing but cry and nearly force Naruto and Sasuke to murder her as she pulls an Ash in Pokemon The First Movie.

She makes a 10% heartwarming 90% stupid plea, while sobbing, to make Sasuke stay, not properly planning this out at all and nearly betraying her village to stay with him. Then she cries some more to Naruto, not allowed on the mission to get Sasuke back because she’s too useless and Sasuke crazy, and begs him to bring her back.

End of chapter cluster.

It’s a shame, too, because most of what we’ve been getting with the development of side characters, such as Shikamaru, Choji, Rock Lee and even Neji, has been pretty damn great. Why is one of the main characters falling behind so much? Why is Sakura seemingly not even making an effort to do what she keeps saying she wants to do? I mentioned that I thought Sakura was lost, which I still think she is, but she can at least make efforts to improve in the meantime. Her screentime shouldn’t constantly rely on either Naruto or Sasuke.

I probably come off as a bit harsh on her through this part, but I was really starting to lose my patience with her. We go these long gaps without seeing her at all and whenever we do see her, nine times out of ten, she’s reinforcing all of the negative things people have been saying about her for years.

But fear not, reader. We still have a long way to go…whether that’s good or bad is up in the air, but considering Part 3 will be chapters 201-300, which means we’re finally dipping our toes into the time skip chapters, I’d say we have at least a little to look forward to.


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